October 23, 2007

Science Blogging: Translating 'Scientese' into English

Great session today on science blogging: Opening Science to All: Implications of Blogs and Wikis for Social and Scholarly Scientific Communication

Bora Zivkovic talked about the types of science blogging, which include ...
  • Translating science into English;
  • Combating pseudoscience (so that refutations of “pseudoscience“ show up in Google searches);
  • Affecting policy - see The Scientific Activist;
  • Fusing science & art; the history, philosophy, ethics of science (including, I would add, Hampshire College science & religion professor Salman Hameed‘s Science & Religion News);
  • Blogging from the "field" - see Bonobo Handshake;
    Popular & serious science magazine blogs (Scientific American, Nature) ... and my favorite for last:
  • Jokes - see interspecies communication via yoga !!
Jean-Claude Bradley, organic chemistry professor at Drexel, talked about "Open Notebook Science," which he compares to traditional "closed" lab notebooks and published articles where scientific data is not shared; instead Open Notebook Science is "full transparency" where all data, notes, etc. - everything that's been done -- is recorded. His Useful Chem Blog serves as integrative tool pulling together several of his blogs, including one for molecules and another for experiments. Bradley has been able to use his blog & wiki data to collaborate with other scientists to evaluate / contribute to various aspects of research, and he uses his wiki to work with his organic chemistry students.

Janet Stemwedel, professor in the department of philosophy at San Jose State University spoke about the "Social & Scientific Implications of Science Blogging." Stemwedel begins by arguing that scientific communication is essential to scientific practice - to gain resources, share information with the public, and as part of science education. Information has been shared through traditional channels such as peer-reviewed literature and conference presentations. These channels usually prevent communication between scientists and their lay audience. Some other limitations of traditional communication include biases among the small number of folks who are reading / commenting on the literature, as well as the delay between when the science was written and reported to when it is published. However, good science communication is useful both combat / screen out biases, and to cover research in many disciplines (cognitive science, anyone?)

Blogs have several promising features, like shorter time-frames between communication; and those with different disciplinary and geographic foci can participate, and there is a record of the "conversation" -- and blogging conference meetings can help make them less ephemeral (!). For current and prospective students of science, blogs can also be a window into the process of "scientific knowledge building" and what life is like as a practicing scientist (See Jane Compute is my favorite example).

Stemwedel concludes with some interesting questions and statements: do blogs help or hurt the scientists' professional reputation? Can blogs shift the culture? Increased communication between scientists and non-scientists could be a good thing.

The panelists were asked what they think are important research questions for the future of science blogging ...
  • How do scientists learn what it means to be a good scientist?
  • How does science actually get done (see examples via the Useful Chem blog / wiki)
  • What is the life of the scientific article after publication? (post-publication peer-review)
For More Information


Jean-Claude Bradley said...

Thanks for attending the session and writing such a good summary!
I'll have the links to the recordings of each of the speakers up shortly on my blog.

Jean-Claude Bradley said...

The recording is now available

Jean-Claude Bradley said...

The recording is now available here.